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Five Challenges in Adjusting to Retirement

Sarita Harbour

Although most people look forward to retirement as a time to relax and enjoy their family, friends, and favorite hobbies, not all of them realize that it requires a significant lifestyle adjustment. Even if it’s a welcome change, smoothly transitioning from a work-oriented lifestyle to that of a retiree may be challenging for those who aren’t prepared for it.

Here are five challenges that you’ll likely face as you ease into your retirement years.

1. Using Your Savings Responsibly

As a retiree, you no longer receive a regular paycheck from work, and there aren’t any bonuses, raises, or promotions to cushion unexpected expenses or unplanned extravagances. Living on a fixed income from a 401(k) account or a pension and your savings may take some getting used to. You may need to adjust your spending habits and review your household budget and spending on a monthly basis to ensure your savings will support your retirement lifestyle for your remaining years.

If in the past, you’ve depended on credit cards and loans to finance trips, home renovations, or vehicle purchases, it may seem tough to change your spending attitude and behavior at this stage in your life. However, using your savings responsibly could mean the difference between a financially successful retirement and running out of money in your golden years.

Keep these points in mind when thinking about managing money in retirement.

  • Estimate your retirement years. Try using a longevity calculator to figure out how long your savings may need to last. Keep in mind that people are living longer than ever before. A 65-year-old man should expect to live to 84, whereas a 65-year-old woman should expect to reach 86, according to the Social Security Administration.
  • Create a new retirement budget. Some of your work-related expenses, such as a work wardrobe or transportation costs, may disappear—or at least shrink. Others, such as travel expenses or money spent on hobbies (e.g., golf), may increase in the early years of your retirement, then taper off as you age and your interests change.
  • Schedule regular reviews of your investments.  Are they still meeting the investment return goals needed to fund your retirement? For many years, financial advisors used the “4 Percent Rule” when helping clients decide on how much to withdraw, but increasing longevity figures and low interest rates mean that this may no longer be your best option.
  • Think twice before dipping into your retirement savings.  Doing so could devastate your finances at a time when your options to generate more income are limited.

2. Keeping Mentally and Physically Active

Yet another challenge in adjusting to retirement involves finding ways to keep mentally and physically active. Although your pre-retirement life may have offered ample opportunities to stretch your mental muscles, in retirement, you’ll need to be a little more purposeful in finding ways to challenge your brain.

Some activities to try include:

  • taking music lessons
  • learning a second language
  • playing online brain games
  • doing crosswords or Sudoku
  • taking up bridge or another group card game (this lets you socialize at the same time)

Staying physically active may also be difficult for new retirees, but it’s very important that they do. Recent studies indicate that staying physically fit impacts more than just your muscles—it helps stave off mental decline as well.

To meet the challenge of staying physically fit in retirement, choose an activity you enjoy. It’s a lot easier to stick with something that’s fun to do than something that feels like a chore. And don’t think you have to take up body-building or train for a marathon. There are many moderate forms of exercise that you can try out, such as gardening, golfing, pickleball, walking, yoga, or Tai Chi.

3. Finding Ways to Socialize

Once you retire from your job, you may find yourself missing the social interaction your co-workers and customers provided—yes, even those who drove you nuts during your working years. That’s why it’s important to make a concerted effort to connect with others.

Isolation in retirement is a growing epidemic affecting over 8 million older adults across the country. In addition to the emotional symptoms isolation brings on, such as sadness, loneliness, or depression, one study found that prolonged isolation resulted in an increased risk of early death. Avoiding isolation is particularly important if you aren’t married or don’t have a partner. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, single people age 65 and over spend an average of 10.1 waking hours alone each day.

The best way to avoid isolation is to take charge of your social calendar. Look for opportunities to socialize as part of your daily or weekly routine. Local options could include taking part in programs offered at your library, senior center, church, or the Y. Start or join a book club, cooking club, or music appreciation night, or pursue a favorite hobby, sport, or volunteer activity. And don’t limit yourself to social opportunities with others in your age range . Spending time with people of all ages can be very enriching.

4. Finding Ways to Continue Contributing to Society

Some retirees might feel that working gave their life purpose and they have little to contribute to society in this new chapter in life. That simply isn’t true. Today’s retirees have many options to become involved, stay engaged, and help in their local community and beyond. Start with these ideas to find something that suits your experience and interests.

  • Volunteer for a favorite cause. Canvass your neighborhood, fundraise for a special cause, or volunteer your time at a faith-based group, community-based organization, or local chapter of a national agency.
  • Share your knowledge. Although sharing what you’ve learned over the years could take the form of teaching or tutoring, there’s also the option to write a book about what you’ve learned (in the workplace or in life), or even act as a consultant or mentor to younger members of your profession.
  • Help your family and neighbors. These days, many new retirees care for an aging parent or assist with grandchildren. Whether you’re driving your mom to a doctor’s appointment or your granddaughter and her friends to school, helping out is a great way to contribute to the people closest to you.

5. Spending Free Time Wisely

Confronted with the freedom of retirement, it may be difficult to decide how to spend your time. You’ve worked for a long time, and although you’ve probably earned the right to laze about, you might not want to. Consider what brings you joy, and what you wanted to do but didn’t have time for when you were working. Prioritize these activities when determining how to spend your free time.

But do try to avoid jam-packing your day’s agenda. Remember, there’s no need to gulp down breakfast and rush out the door to work. Instead, sleep in, linger over your morning coffee and paper, or laugh over a long lunch with a friend. Savor the taste of a newly-tried recipe, pursue that hobby you never had time for. Connect with old friends and make new ones. Arrange visits or trips to far-flung family members to stay connected. Figure out what makes you happy and do it!

No matter your eagerness, adjusting to life in retirement takes some time. Confront the bumps in the road as they appear, and start thinking about ways to make the transition to life as a retiree a little smoother.

Join the discussion and leave a comment: What was the toughest challenge you faced transitioning into retirement? The Extra Mile community wants to know how you prevailed.  Share your tips and inspire other future and current retirees to embrace this part of their life.

18 Responses to "Five Challenges in Adjusting to Retirement"

  • Extra Mile Staff | August 19, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thought process, Julius. Congratulations on your retirement!

  • Julius A | August 16, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    It's tough going from always busy, buys, busy to quiet and little to do. I keep telling myself that after over 45 years of full time non-stop, stressful working I deserve it. And I do plan to work or volunteer part time. The biggest issue is adjusting to the change. I have to say I feel more relaxed, healthier from lack of stress, and eating better, How can that be bad? So I believe you hav to give it time, figure out what you would LIKE to do, not HAVE to do, and go from there. I'm finding my skills are desired by others, but I may not want to do that work! What a shift!

  • Extra Mile Staff | July 1, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Marge- we are so sorry for your loss. Enjoy your time in MN with your family.

  • Marge Doss | June 30, 2019 at 2:31 am

    I retired about six months after my husband did. We watched our spending but went to southern NM in the winter and MN in the summer, where our family lives, in an RV. It was a good life but then it changed. Marlyn had his first heart attack 11 years ago and from then on, it was downhill, with special diet, pills, Dr appointments, and more involved care with more health issues. He passed a year ago June 18, 2018. Now I have to get used to an entirely different lifestyle, apartment living in MN, with having my own health problems. A person needs faith and life goes on until it doesn't anymore.

  • Nam Vet | June 26, 2019 at 12:04 am

    I have been retired for almost three years. I must say the first two were tough as I was used to working for the last 50 years. I miss my fellow employees(most of them) as we became close over the many long years. After all you spend almost half your life at work. Depression for awhile was a problem. You can only golf, cut the grass, work on your home for so long before it gets old. I miss the action as I was in sales in a fast paced business. I would compare it to a compulsive gambler who loved to play and then after help can play no more. Something has to fill the void! That is what you need to plan for at least two years in advance of the last day. I new several folks that died after two years of retirement because I believe they had nothing to do with a life’s purpose. I also believe that the change in routine is a shock to your system and sometimes that can cause medical issues. Start planning for the golden years we’ll in advance.!!!! After all as Tom Hanks said on the bridge in Saving Private Ryan to Pvt Ryan..........“ you’ve earned it’

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Deen- we are sorry for your loss. Have a great time exploring in your motorhome!

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Congratulations on your retirement, just in time for summer!

  • SKaredy | June 25, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    I was compelled to retire due to a chronic health issue. I have always liked to help people, so the same counseling I was paid to do as an employee I now do for free to individuals, or at a low cost to organizations and businesses. And, for the most part, I can do it from home. Our mail pick-up is located about a half-mile from our home, so I try to walk to get the mail when I can. I think it is important that we remain relevant - to feel like we are still contributing something (positive) to the world.

  • Deen | June 25, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    The day my late wife got a liver transplant (liver cancer) was the day I retired. 48 days later she died. It's been almost three years and I'm finally starting to got over my depression and looking forward to traveling in my motorhome more.

  • Deb Hines | June 25, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for all the comments above. I am three weeks into my retirement and am feeling all the above. Thanks for the financial tips! I am glad to see I am not alone and that helps too! I would enjoy continuing this format as the days go by!

  • Robert | June 25, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    The book by Bill Thomas md from Harvard was very valuable. His focus is on defining "Elderhood," the stage after adulthood, moving from doing to being. The book is "What are old people good for?" where he has a video on the subject.

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience, James. This can help a lot of people feeling the same way.

  • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    This is a wonderful outlook to have, thank you for sharing.

  • J. Bradley | June 24, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    In retirement, We stopped cable tv service. We don't go to high end eateries anymore. We prepare healthy food at home. We take advantage of the library, senior centers & church programs, etc. We help others who are less fortunate even if it's with small non monetary gestures. We have learned that being high class is simply about how we conduct ourselves, how we treat ourselves, & how we treat other people; especially the less fortunate.

  • R John Roy | June 24, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Thank you. Your article was enlightening and informative.

  • Audrey Ruff-McClester | June 24, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for the well needed advice about retirement. It was very helpful.

  • James Fullerton | June 23, 2019 at 12:37 am

    After retiring from a 24 year career in law enforcement and then 19 years as a maintenance tech for a medium size company, I frequently found myself in a state of depression. I had become so used to going to work and doing good for good people and now I was at a loss as what to do with my time. Now, slowly I am overcoming the depression. Things are seeming better with each passing day.

  • Gregory Reich | June 22, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    I’ve always been an organized person, but basically I found that in my early days of retirement I’ve had to face the realization that I don’t have the confidence that I once had when I was younger. If I live that long in a short while I will be 77 years of age which I know isn’t all that old, my health is good and really I am deeply grateful to the Lord for all that I’ve been given, still breaking away from the routine of daily life that I’ve been so used to, has not been easy. Physical activity does keep me fit and doing it with others specifically family members is something I look forward to. And yet there are times when it seems to be an ongoing challenge but not really an uphill battle. Consider all aspects of your life as you know now, and work with each one,one day at a time always thankful for what you have and how much you can give to others.

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